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In this episode of In-Ear Insights, join Katie and Chris as they debate the future of influencer marketing in a world where conversations and communities are private. If a tree falls on a Kardashian but no one likes or comments in public, did it really happen? How should marketers be thinking about influencer marketing as social media evolves?

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn
In this week’s in your insights, we are talking about influencer marketing in the post public news feed world. So, for anyone who has not opened their phone, or at least the Facebook app on their phone in a really long time, Facebook has started, it’s moved to the post newsfeed world. And what that means is that they are putting groups and private messaging first and foremost saying, No, no, Facebook and social media really are all just about your friends. Meanwhile, major social media companies are facing extensive scrutiny from lawmakers for having various forms of failure on unacceptable speech. And the in other parts of the world apps like WhatsApp and WeChat are really the the new way for social media to work where it is your private conversations with the people that you trust and know. And everybody else can you know, the the public water cooler is literally drying up. So

just start off Katie, have your personal social media habits changed, where instead of using the public feeds you Really? Are you spending more time with groups spending more time with just your friends?

Katie Robbert
Um, you know, that’s a great question. I personally don’t use social media a whole lot to begin with. And so I had noticed the redesign of Facebook on my phone. You know,

I think that my at least on Facebook, it’s still a healthy blend of my friends, public feed, and whatever the groups are saying, you know, I would need to honest, it’s one of the things I want to go back and reevaluate the groups that I’ve joined from my own personal interests. And that’s, you know, I did notice the other day that for one of the first times I got, you know, this really hard push from Facebook,

to join certain groups, and you know, all of your other friends are in groups, invite them into groups. And so I have a, I have seen

that change being made. I don’t know what about you, Chris?

Christopher Penn
I have definitely seen groups be put first and foremost, the groups that I’m in their posts are always the top of the feed. And I’ve seen a lot of people in the various social media group saying, Oh, my God, do I need to start a Facebook group now is this yo Should I immediately pivot to the latest shiny object? And I keep thinking to myself, gosh, you know,

I get that feeling. Because it’s certainly something that you know, when Google announces a new algorithm change every SEO practitioner out there runs to change their websites and things but Facebook has a long storied history of saying do this everybody does this then Facebook says Haha, now we’re going to make you pay money for this because because your captive you can no longer pivot back to the way things used to be. And it just seems to me that Facebook is positioning of a position to Instagram that way a company’s you should start your fate your Instagram business profile. Now saying, oh, by the way, if you want any your Instagram post to be seen, you should be paying us. And I foresee the same thing for groups do, okay? You must be have a Facebook group. And now you know, in 12 to 24 months Facebook like okay, now, if you want your groups to be seen, you need to pay money.

Katie Robbert
So it’s interesting, we wanted to talk about groups and sort of the Facebook change over because of the potential impact for influencer marketing. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, Chris. I personally don’t see a lot of influencer marketing happening on Facebook, I see it more relevant on Instagram, where it’s more visual, or Twitter, where you can do a little bit more of that b2b. You know, help me understand how influencer marketing works on Facebook.

Christopher Penn
It works very similarly, where you have influencers who have their page accounts, doing things like tons of live video, tons of q&a, 360, video, all sorts of crazy stuff, and running their own groups in many cases. And what we see in this, this post public newsfeed world is that if you are an influencer, or you aspire to be an influencer, or your company wants to be influential in a space, you need to have that community. And you need to have that community in a way that is relevant that can get you into other private community service, you know, someone being an ambassador to the group. So for example, that for trust insights, if we wanted to, to enter some private, closed or analytics experts community, and we knew someone influential in that they could invite us in behind the velvet rope, as it were, and say, like, hey, these are these are folks who are trusted. Whereas in the past, that group might have been public or that page might have been in public, and it would be visible and searchable in the main news feed. If a group is private and closed, it’s not going to show up in in Facebook search. And so getting access to those very, very large communities could be something that marketers would desperately want. Now, for what we do, that may not be necessarily a huge group of groups. But imagine if you’re a b2c product company, and you want in into the million mom, group on Facebook, which by the way, they are huge, huge b2c influencer groups, like, you know, the million mom group, and so on and so forth. If you want access to that, you gotta have somebody invite in.

Katie Robbert
So it’s, it’s interesting that you’re talking about it in that way of sort of maybe the influencers being, you know, the gatekeepers of the velvet rope. Don’t people join communities to get away from being sold to they get into these communities so that they can share stories and talk with like minded folks. And I feel like the second that influencers are coming companies start infiltrating these groups and trying to sell in, if there’s going to be a huge backlash, and it’s going to be the people are going to leave that group to go find someplace where they can safely just get whatever, whatever information they want and not be sold at.

Christopher Penn
It depends on how the group is being run. There are definitely tons of groups, especially on LinkedIn, which are just nothing but spam fests, right. And, and those groups do have very high churn. There are other groups where there are very strict moderators who keep things mostly on the rails, we ourselves, we started with a Facebook group, and we have since pivoted to a slack group, because we saw the writing on the wall, you know, we don’t want to be paying Facebook to talk to people who want to talk to us anyway. So we have a slack community, which by the way, if you’re not a member of go to trust insights.ai slash analytics for markers free to join.

And so yes, I think there is there’s there’s a fine line between a promotional group which nobody wants to be a part of a focused community where things can be shared, that maybe have a somewhat commercial nature, but as long as they are highly relevant and valuable to the group will still be well received.

Katie Robbert
So here’s a question for you. Mr. Penn

on Facebook, you have this these this notion of groups and communities, you don’t have the same controls and the same types of things on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, for example, you do have groups and communities on LinkedIn. So how do you feel this translates into these top social media platforms like Instagram and Twitter where groups aren’t a thing, yet?

Christopher Penn
groups are not a thing yet, but they absolutely are.

Available in the form of direct message grouping dress direct message communities on both platforms.

On Instagram, you can have a group chat with, like 50 people, which is a noxious By the way, I highly recommend never doing that. Because your phone never stops buzzing. But you absolutely can have those private conversations I was at at IBM think this year the in the influencers, formed their own private Twitter group to dm without IBM team just to talk amongst ourselves. And there was a different conversation there than there was in the official Slack channel for influencers. And so those platforms absolutely have these ad hoc collectives, if you will. And those are collectives that you want to be in, especially if it if it’s not just influences. So if it’s like you and your 20 friends who are at, say, at the ASCO conference, this is something that you want you as a company would love to have access to. If it’s like the top 20 CIOs

How do you get in there is stopped public may or may not even exist, and you want access to it as a company or if you’re an influencer, who was built your entire brand persona on the public feed and the public feed is is slowly being nudged away, in favor of these private things, you as an influencer had better get on board and be building your own community that is accessible, and that that you have more control over. Because otherwise, you will very quickly descend into a relevance as the world moves private.

Katie Robbert
Well, and maybe it’s a matter of nuance in terms of what we’re calling it. But, you know, I feel like private chats are a little bit different from these communities that you can build on platforms such as Facebook, like I can have a, you know, text message chat with, you know, all of my family members, and not worry that that an advertiser is going to start showing ads to my, you know, SMS text, and sort of the same thing with, you know,

Instagram group chats are, you’re mentioning Twitter group chats, Facebook is different, because you can advertise through Facebook Messenger, which I feel like is sort of this dangerous that you can do the same thing with LinkedIn, too. I get these, like bizarre promotional chats all the time through LinkedIn. And so it is really interesting to think of how advertisers in some way are desperate to get to infiltrate. It’s almost like, you know, being in high school again, and you desperately want to sit at the cool kids table, but you’re waiting for the invite, because it’s, you know, not socially acceptable to just go ahead and sit down, you have to know somebody to invite you to the table.

Christopher Penn
Absolutely. Although I I never got to sit with the cool kids.

Katie Robbert
Well, neither but Joke’s on them. Now.

Christopher Penn
You are absolutely right, and saying that companies are desperate to get any attention, because in the environment we operate in attention is the most valuable resource, it is the most scarce resource. And we are competing for the same eyeballs that Netflix is competing for and that politicians are competing for and so on, and so forth. And so if you have any amount of attention of an audience, that is a significant asset to your company, or to your brand, or to your personal brand, if you’re an influencer, the challenge is, is that the mechanism of attention is changing. And that really is, is at the heart of private groups. And I should add that that message based advertising will be coming to WhatsApp and we’ll be coming to Instagram because that was Facebook’s whole reason for blowing up their infrastructure a couple weeks ago, and causing that massive outage as a couple of massive outages. They needed to unify these systems to get them ready. There is desperation for companies to to be seen by their target audiences.

And a lot of that has to do with the fact that they’re just doing such a terrible job of marketing in general, that they want just bring their terrible marketing to a different channel where maybe they’ll get a second and a half of someone’s attention, as opposed to taking the opposite tack of if you make something worth paying attention to people will find a way to pay attention to it.

Katie Robbert
Well, and I think that that’s the key, what we often see in the social media space is that companies are quick to jump the gun to hire influencers to get the message out there without actually having something of quality that should organically get people’s attention. So it I do think that this change in social media, especially where so many companies and so many agencies have built their foundation around, like quote unquote, doing social, they’re going to have to pivot and actually have something of quality to say, so, you know, what kind of a risk Do you think it is to like a boutique agency, for example, that does only social media, for companies,

Christopher Penn
I think there’s substantial risk, if your entire platform is based on the public newsfeed and the public newsfeed is is dwindling away to irrelevance, then you there you have a problem. If you have no experience with influencers, you have no experience running private communities, you have a major problem that you need to pivot to. And you need to get up to speed very, very quickly. The funny thing is, to your point, this is none of this is new stuff. If you as a company have neglected your email marketing list, or always sent a garbage, then its history repeating itself. On the other hand, if you’re really good at creating a newsletter that people want to read, it’s the same skill, just a slightly different channel, where I think there’ll be significant impact for us and our work is that social media analytics will become much less helpful, because Go ahead, No, go ahead. Because the the quality of the conversation and the importance of the conversation will diminish, because we know that the good stuff will be happening in places where there is no tracking where there is no where there are no analytics where you won’t see the the in the real influences man lately, the decision makers and the buyers, having those conversations in public, what you will see are all the trolls and all the people who like talking to themselves talking to the air, continuing to do so in public. But that will not be a no longer a representative sample of what the conversation is. And I suspect, I suspect that is already the case today. That’s one of the reasons why when we do a lot of our work, we focus much more heavily on search data, because that is still recordable. And people’s people still have questions to ask. So you know,

Katie Robbert
it’s interesting, you had mentioned the phrase history repeating itself. Believe it or not, there was a point in time where social media did not exist, it was not a channel that people could rely on. And so I

unsolicited advice for marketers would be, you know, there are other channels, Chris, to your point to focus on, such as email, such as search, that don’t include necessarily social media. And so perhaps, you know, just wild guess, this might be a good time to reevaluate your channel strategy, or maybe even do some sort of attribution modeling to figure out which channels are working for you, because maybe you’re spending a lot of time on social media, and it’s not even converting for you. So I think that, you know, while some companies might find it a little bit scary that social media is going to be changing and evolving, and maybe not as effective. I think that’s okay.

Christopher Penn
I completely agree and figure out ways to do better tracking. So if you’re not familiar with sub domain tracking, is probably going to be one of the most useful things that you as a marketer could be doing. So, for example, if I’m participating in a, say, a different slack group, I could provision a subdomain for a white paper, they wanted to give way to that group, as you know, call it, Bob’s friends, right? That’s ridiculous example. But Bob’s friends, trust, insights.ai would be a sub domain, they could provision just for that purpose, and have it its own UTM codes and the redirect and all that stuff. So that as we roll out more content to these private groups, where there is no tracking, we can attribute better and say, okay, at least we know, Bob’s friends, the group is driving traffic to us, we don’t necessarily know who per se, but we can at least see that as its own channels. So source, if you think about a group, as its own channel, rather than Facebook as the channel, but this group is the channel, you can be a lot more methodical and you’re tracking, you can be more effective in your tracking, and you’ll reduce that amount of tracking says direct, slash none and your Google Analytics. But that takes us full circle back to our favorite word, which is in order to do this, you have to have a plan.

Katie Robbert
Yeah, hey, have a plugin. So you know, it’s interesting, we’ve been talking for the past X amount of minutes about communities and groups. And we have yet to actually mention the social media platform where that’s really all they do. And that’s Reddit. And so I think that a lot of marketers tend to overlook Reddit as a viable channel. That’s where you get that insight into groups and communities and sub communities. And I believe you can actually advertise on Reddit. You know, I personally don’t know exactly, you know, all of the prices and everything. But it is something that marketers in general tend to overlook, they don’t put Reddit in the same category as a Facebook or a Twitter or, you know, an Instagram, but it is a community based social platform that marketers need to get familiar with, and get on board with. Because that is a very strong platform.

Christopher Penn
It is, but it is also exceptionally dangerous. If you do not understand or read its culture, and you do not know how to advertise to read it. The number of comments you can get on your ads lambasting you and ruining your brand, immediately are the community’s judgment is swift and merciless. So there is that caution. But that does bring up and I think it’s an important point, you have to expand your mind as to what is social media, if you are a company that focuses on like DevOps or technology, and you are not participating on Stack Overflow, and you’re not participating on GitHub, guess what you’re missing your core audience, they are not wasting their entire day on Twitter, and they do not want to hear from you on Facebook. But if you have something of substance to offer, like you see a major project that you can check out some code and check back in a couple of useful contributions, guess what you are earning social currency in that community for being a helpful member to projects people care about?

Katie Robbert
So it’s, I think what we’re coming to is, it’s we need to remove the term social media and really think about groups and communities that exist on the internet. So as marketers, those are the types of platforms that we’re seeking out the traditional social media, it’s going away completely. It’s moving, it’s migrating to groups and communities. influencers need to rethink how they’re approaching them. marketers need to rethink where they’re finding their audience. And so there’s there’s a lot of change going on, but it’s all manageable change. If you have a plan.

Christopher Penn
And if you’d like help with that plan or the measurement of that plan, please feel free to say hi to us over trust and said stop a that’s going to do it for this week’s show. We’ll talk to you soon.


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